Posted on Oct 27th, 2022 by Renu Dahiya, Last updated Nov 2nd, 2022, Leave a Comment
How early should you arrive at the airport? This is a question that many travelers wonder, especially if they are new to air travel. There are a number of factors that can affect the answer to ‘How early should I get to the airport?’, such as the airport’s size, the airline you are flying, and the time of day you are traveling. It is always best to arrive at the airport a few hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. This will give you plenty of time to check in, go through security, and get to your gate.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you are traveling during a busy time or flying during the holiday season, you may want to arrive even earlier. To learn more about how early you should arrive at the airport, keep reading!
Generally, domestic flights allow more wiggle room for arrival times since there’s less paperwork and formalities. Also because you may be flying out of a smaller airport. Getting through security typically takes less time on a domestic flight than it would on an international one, that’s why arriving airport a little closer to the flight’s scheduled departure time would work. But, the general recommendation from the TSA is to reach the airport about two hours before your domestic flight.
For international flights, it is generally recommended that you arrive at the airport at least 3 hours ahead of time. This may feel like an eternity for some travelers, but international flights require more formalities and paperwork. For example – Passports will be checked manually, luggage check-in will take more time, etc.
If you follow this guide for arriving time at the airport, you are practically guaranteed to make it for your flight, regardless of the country you are in, the size of the airport, and other external factors that might cause delays.
Let’s know how early you should arrive at the airport for an international flight in different situations or some factors that affect this time –
With TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, you can get through security lines (or U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the case of Global Entry) more quickly. It means you can arrive at the airport a little later for your flight. But, no matter what program you’re part of, it is advisable to review your airport’s website ahead of time to make sure they have lines dedicated to our program. So, even with these programs, your should still plan to arrive at the airport at least 60 to 90 minutes before the departure of domestic flights and 90 minutes to 2 hours before the departure of international flights.
To be on the safer side, if you need to check in luggage, you should definitely follow the airline’s general guidance and get to the airport at least 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours early for international flights. You never know what the airline check-in counter is going to look like before you arrive at the airport. So, to make sure that you’ll be able to check in your bag and make your flight, reach the airport timely.
If you have already checked in online and you don’t need to check in a bag, you only need to worry about going through airport security. In this case, you can get to the airport 60 to 90 minutes before your domestic flight and 90 minutes to 2 hours before your international flight.
With children, it always takes much longer to do most things. That’s why it is preferable to add as much as an additional hour so you have plenty of time to manage extra luggage and make sure your kids or family is traveling safely. Plus, to take advantage of priority boarding with small children, you’ll need to get to the gate early. It means travelers with young kids should plan to arrive at the airport up to 3 hours early for domestic flights and up to 4 hours early for international flights.
You may also miss a flight due to not leaving enough time between layovers. Yes, it’s true! Suppose you have an international flight such as Atlanta to Hyderabad flight coming up with a layover in Delhi and you are traveling on the same ticket, the bag you checked in at your origin airport will be loaded onto your next flight for you. It means that you won’t have to pick up your bag and only have to worry about going through airport security again.
In this case, you should arrive at the airport at least 1-2 hours early to ensure you make your flight. But, if you have to collect your bag, you should aim for 3 hours between layovers, as you will have to check in again.
Tip: Check out our guide to know if you can leave the airport during a layover.
When to arrive at the airport for your flight also depends on the country you are flying from. You might want to arrive at the airport a little earlier if you are flying internationally from a busy and restricted country. American Airlines, for example, recommends that if you’ve booked flights to Mumbai from New York, or from Dublin, Ireland, or Ghana, you should get to the airport a minimum of 3 to 4 hours before departure, even if you’re not checking in a bag.
If you are flying from a big and popular airport, it might take you a little longer to navigate and go through the process of checking in, going through airport security, and finding your gate to board the plane. And, for international flights, it will take more time as there will be more paperwork and formalities. So, if you’ve booked international Chicago to Delhi flights, for example, you’ll have to leave a little more time early to guarantee that you will make your flight.
All the major airlines, regardless if you’re flying with American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue, or any other premium or regional air carrier, will recommend that you arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the departure for domestic flights and 3 hours before the departure of international flights.
If you’re planning to fly during the peak travel times (Christmas/New Year, spring break, Thanksgiving, etc.), you may have to arrive at the airport earlier for security purposes. During these times of the year, the airport is bustling with the crowd, and security checkpoints and other formalities are going to take way more time than usual. So, it is best to be extra cautious and arrive at the airport up to 3 hours early for domestic flights and up to 4 hours early for international flights.
If you’re planning to fly between 9 am to 8 pm, you will find a huge crowd at the airport. You need to reach the airport at least 2-3 hours early for domestic flights and 3-4 hours early for international flights. Airports are generally less busy in the early morning and late evening, so if you have booked red-eye flights you can get to the airport a little later to catch your flight. But, it completely depends on the airport you are flying from.
If you are planning to send your child on a flight alone, there are additional steps to go through when you arrive at the airport. Apart from the usual check-in process, you’ll need to do additional formalities and fill out additional paperwork. You need to pay any service charges to the airline and obtain an escort pass to accompany your child to the gate. So, it is advisable to plan for at least an extra half hour to an hour depending on the time of the day and the season.
Tip: To know whether you need a ticket to enter the airport or not to accompany your family member to the gate, check out our blog now!
No matter when you reach the airport for your flight, a delayed or canceled flight can ruin even the best of plans. So, don’t forget to double-check your flight information and status before you leave and when you’re en route. It is best to check the check-in time, boarding time, and exact departure time several times to plan for any changes or delays before your flight. And, there are many possibilities and ways to check these details –
First of all, please know that not every flight leaves on time. As per the sources, around 25 percent of all flights are delayed or canceled because of the airline, weather, security, or other reasons. So, even if you’re cutting it close, don’t panic. Be Calm and follow the below-mentioned steps –
How early you arrive at the airport can really set the tone of your trip. So, when in doubt about when to arrive at the airport, lean towards the earlier side. Save the thrill and adventure for your destination, not the airport. Whether you are flying from a large airport or a small airport, flying within the country or abroad, or flying in the peak travel season or low travel season, it is always better to arrive at the airport early than to miss your flight.
Please know that it will take some time before you are in the departure hall and ready to relax. So, always try to leave your home 2 to 2.5 hours before the departure of domestic flights and 3 to 4 hours before the departure of international flights.
Q: How early should I get to the airport for my flight?
A: It is generally recommended that you arrive at the airport 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours early for international flights.
Q: Can I arrive at the airport a little later and still make my flight?
A: If you don’t have to check bags, you may be able to skip the check-in counter and arrive at the airport a little later. You’ll just need to check in online and download or print your boarding pass before arriving at the security gate.
Q: What is the best time to avoid crowds at the airport?
A: Flying early morning and late evening can definitely save you a half hour or more once you arrive at the airport.
Q: Does reaching the airport through a ride share or via public transportation save time?
A: Arriving at the airport through a ride share or public transportation can be comparatively stress-free because it saves time that would otherwise be spent finding parking space and taking shuttles from a parking lot.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
So, the next time you’re unsure of when to arrive at the airport to catch a flight, consider this handy guide on ‘How early should I arrive at the airport?’.
Did you ever get to the airport too late or too early? Tell us about your experience, we’d love to hear from you.
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Renu Dahiya is a passionate writer who worships her profession. Her love for writing has encouraged her to pursue her career as a writer. Her friends call her a “travel worm” and always come to her to know some interesting traveling tips and destinations. Renu is a repository of knowledge about traveling who knows which place should be visited in which season. Oh yes, she is insanely in love with dancing too. Writer, traveler and dancer, a perfect combination! Without a doubt, she is a complete package.